Traveling in Antarctica

Traveling in Antartica

Also known as the white continent, Antarctica is the only continent that does not have any indigenous people, trees, or even its own land based wildlife. Also a land of extremes, the record temperature of 128 below zero was recorded in Vostok Station which is cold enough to shatter steel! By average, Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, and driest the continent. As a matter of fact, it’s considered to be the largest desert in the world, as it gets even less precipitation than the Sahara!

Despite the harsh conditions of the continent, each Austral summer Antarctica is visited by penguins, seals, whales, and birds that use Antarctica as a breeding ground and then return to the sea or other parts of the world. Some mistakenly believe that polar bears live here, but with the exception of one species there actually are no bears in the southern hemisphere. While deep inland you’ll always find extreme temperatures year around, the coastal areas can be pretty reasonable during the Austral summer from October to February. These regions often see temperatures slightly above freezing, making this the only ideal time to visit for both travelers and wildlife.

First Sight Antarctica

The picture on the upper left was my first glimpse of Antarctica. This continent was only discovered in the 19th century. Imagine sailing in a ship and discovering a wall of ice and dark clouds and realizing you just found an entire continent. Sailing in Antarctica can be pretty dangerous because you have to go through the Drake Passage if you’re coming from South America. On the way back we sailed around Cape Horn, which is said to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for ships. We had some 40 foot waves outside, but it’s said that sometimes they can reach 80 feet. The rocking was so bad I wondered if getting out of bed would be too dangerous, but I tried it anyway. Afterwards I would lie in my bed which had seat belts and I’d get a feeling of being weightless, then I’d feel like someone was forcing my face into the bed as the ship rocked back and forth. Sailing around Cape Horn was definitely an experience. Once in Antarctica the ice in the water is probably the most dangerous threat to ships. In the top right picture, that bay was completely empty of ice an hour earlier. I had been on land when suddenly a huge building size piece of ice fell into the water. This created a huge wave and when it rose against the ice behind it, it had an almost neon blue appearance. The ice quickly broke up and as you can see in the upper right picture, it filled up the entire bay with sheet ice. The crew was worried our ship would get stuck but we were able to make it out with no problems.

Antarctic Scenery

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Antarctic-Scenery

A truly unique and beautiful continent, Antarctica is essentially untouched by man yet takes up an area the size of the United States. Antarctica also as a continent has the highest average elevation. The highest mountain rises to 16,050 feet (4,892 meters). Viewing large mountains and cliffs against the sea makes some of the most dramatic scenery in the world!

Antarctic Birds

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Antarctic Birds

More than just penguins live in Antarctica! Petrels, Albatross, Squas and other species visit Antarctica each year as well. The Albatross is one of the most amazing birds to spot on a visit to the White Continent. It has the largest wingspan in the world, sometimes reaching an incredible 11 feet (3.3 meters)!

Antarctic Ice Bergs

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Antarctic Icebergs

Coming in all shapes and sizes, Antarctic icebergs offer some unique and impressive natural beauty. While sailing in Antarctica or visiting the coast, it’s impossible to miss these beautiful natural wonders of ice floating by. Some are the size of small cars while others can even be the size of a small city!

Antarctic Penguins

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Antarctic Penguins

The White Continent is dominated by penguins in the austral summer. You can find chinstraps, Adelie, and macaroni penguins further north. The largest penguin in the world however is the emperor penguin, and finding this impressive species will require a deeper trip into Antarcitca.

Antarctic Seals

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Antarctic Seals

The Antarctic is home to six species of seals. The most infamous of the six is the leopard seal, which is the top predatory animal in Antarctica. Others are elephant seals, fur seals, the weddell seal, the crabeater, and the elusive ross seal.

Antarctic Whales

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Antarctic Whales

Antarctica is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Several species of the whales visit here in the austral summer. The most common species are the right whale, sei whale, humpbacks, minke, fin, sperm, killer whales and the blue whale; the largest animal on planet earth!